Distorting the truth without actually lying has a name: paltering. We all do it, and according to a new Harvard University study, most of us feel better about paltering than flat-out lying. But before you give yourself a free pass, know that this type of deception is viewed by others just as harshly as a straight-up lie, and can seriously hurt your reputation if people catch on.
Paltering is common in negotiations and in politics. In a blog post for the Harvard Business Review, study co-author and professor of business administration Francesca Gino, PhD, outlined a few instances from the 2016 presidential race.
So politicians do it, but it’s also something that many of us do on a regular basis, in both our personal and professional lives.
“Even I do it too frequently,” says lead author Todd Rogers, PhD, associate professor of public policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. “I’ll go into my inbox and look at an email I was supposed to reply to weeks ago. And I’ll look out the window and think about it for a few seconds, and then write, ‘I’ve been thinking about your email.’”